I popped into Waterstones today to pick up a last minute gift for my wee boy - a pirate stickerbook that he'd asked Santa for. As is often the case, I was tempted by the bogohalf-price offer and picked up another book as well. I'd first looked at the 'explorers and warriors' book this summer, thinking it would suit my daughter - now 7. So, on impulse today, I picked it up, thinking it would be fun and slightly educational. It's halfway between old-style paperdolls and stickers, with the idea being that you dress the figures in sticker outfits.
But wrapping them up today (early!), I leafed through and was taken aback to find no women in it. Apparently exploring and defending your country is a purely male activity. On closer scrutiny, I did find some women sitting around a campfire with cooking pots in the background behind the 'Sioux warriors'. But that is it in a book that promises "Young readers can kit out famous explorers and fierce warriors in this fantastic sticker book full of authentic detail.". 350 stickers and 50 pages - history across centuries, but virtually no women. So, not that authentic then.
Did their 'researchers' think that girls don't get into explorers and warriors? or that boys wouldn't want to dress up female characters? Or -- most worrying given Usborne's saturation of the kiddie market -- are they simply unaware of the female explorers and warriors?
What about Yaa Asantewaa who led to Gold Coast into rebellion against the British colonisers? Or Freydis and the other Viking women who sailed to North America and settled in Vinland centuries before Columbus? Or, closer to home Boudicca? Not only is there a wikipedia list of female warriors, and a much longer list of women warriors in folklore, but also this rather fine 'top 10 Badass women'.
I'm pleased that Usborne knows better than to label this the 'boys sticker book of explorers and warriors', but in reality that's what it is. Now that many retailers are moving away from gendered toys thanks to pressure from Pinkstinks and others, it looks to me like we need to move beyond worrying about the labels, colours, and departments to the content - and see if we can bring that into the 21st century too. I'll start by returning the sticker book.